Telecoms provider Econet Wireless has secured a USD60m loan from Engelska (EKN), a Swedish export credit agency. The sum is reportedly the largest ever that a European bank has approved for a company in that country in more than 10 years. The new funds will be used to strengthen Econet’s infrastructure in the capital Harare, home of its largest consumer base.
To date, Econet Wireless has only been able to secure loans from China and also from the African Export and Import Bank, based in Egypt. The company plans to use much of the money to upgrade its telecommunications equipment. CEO Douglas Mboweni has voiced the company’s gratitude for the loan, explaining: ‘Our customers in Harare are increasingly buying phones, which require more capacity and capability on the network’.
The loan marks what the people of this country feel is a change in attitude by multilateral companies towards them. Finance minister, Tendai Biti estimates that the country will receive more than USD1bn worth of external lines of credit before the year ends.
Econet Wireless is reported to attract a total of 4 million customers, making it the country’s biggest mobile phone operator by subscriber numbers.